Which high-performance SUV gets the win?
The Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler are two of the best off-roaders in the business. Now, both ranges have been upgraded by the addition of burly V8 power. Of course, that makes them ideal for a heavyweight, mud-slinging battle. We've scoured through the specification sheets to try to determine which of these two SUVs are more deserving of a place in your garage - or at your favorite camping spot. Having just been unveiled this week, the new Defender is the more recent arrival and it's a newer vehicle overall, but don't think for a second that the Wrangler Rubicon 392 will be intimidated.
The latest Defender is a far cry from the last Defender to be sold in the North American market. While just as capable, it is a more rounded, sleek, and premium SUV that looks as comfortable parked at the golf club as it does in the wild. It comes with tasty exterior embellishments like Xenon Blue front brake calipers partially hiding behind enormous 22-inch wheels, along with quad-exit tailpipes.
By contrast, the flamboyant Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 retains the more rugged aesthetic appeal of other Wranglers. It sits higher thanks to a two-inch factory lift and gets body-color flares and a body-color hardtop. Those 33-inch tires are hard to miss, too. The Defender is classier, but the Wrangler is less pretentious and looks like it just wants to get its boots dirty as quickly as possible.
As with the exteriors, the Defender comes off as the more upscale and far more modern product between these two. The seats are finished in posh Windsor leather along with Miko suedecloth and Robustec accents. There are lovely satin chrome paddle shifters and a steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara.
By contrast, the Wrangler's cabin appears much more dated in its overall execution. Jeep has added some welcome touches, though, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and aluminum paddle shifters, which are a first for a Wrangler. However, although user-friendly, the 8.4-inch infotainment screen isn't as large as the Land Rover's display. The Defender also has a digital instrument cluster. Then again, the Wrangler's available half-doors endow it with that unique open-air feel.
We'd forgive you if you jumped straight ahead to this section, as these bold SUVs are all about their powerplants. The Wrangler Rubicon 392 uses a 6.4-liter V8 engine producing 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. This is the first time in close to 40 years that any Wrangler has been equipped with a V8. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Rubicon 392 will sprint to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and clear the quarter-mile in 13 seconds dead.
The new Defender V8 is easily more powerful but, as a heavier vehicle, it's not quite as quick. It uses a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 producing 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Also using an eight-speed auto, the Defender 90 will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 149 mph. No production Defender has ever been quicker, and both the Jeep and the Land Rover are far more potent than any off-roader needs to be.
When you aren't embarrassing sports cars between the traffic lights, both vehicles will confidently clamber over rocks and along muddy trails. The Jeep's upgrades include heavy-duty wide track Dana 44 axles, a two-inch lift, and 33-inch tires. It also has a 3.73 final drive ratio. It has 10.3 inches of ground clearance and approach/breakover/departure angles of 44.5/22.6/37.5 degrees, respectively. You can also listen to the rumble of that V8 while wading through up to 32.5 inches of water.
Land Rover did not indicate off-road technical specifications for the Defender V8, although the base Defender 90 has up to 11.5 inches of ground clearance with its available air suspension, along with approach/ramp/departure angles of 38/31/40 degrees respectively. The wading depth of this model is 35.4 inches, but the V8 may not replicate these numbers exactly. Land Rover's Terrain Response system makes off-roading as effortless as possible.
The Rubicon's 33-inch tires should make it the more capable off-roader, but the Defender boasts some impressive numbers.
Land Rover has not announced pricing for the Defender V8 yet, but we don't expect it to come cheap. Right now, the Defender 110 X with its six-cylinder engine already retails for $83,000, so don't be surprised to cough up a six-figure price to own one of these SUVs. As for the Jeep, it has just been announced that the Wrangler Rubicon 392 will cost a steep $73,500 excluding a destination charge of $1,495.
They both have V8 engines, but the Land Rover Defender V8 and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 are two quite different SUVs. Both are wickedly quick on the tarmac, but the Defender does a better job of ensconcing occupants in a more advanced, higher-quality cabin. By comparison, the Wrangler is the more rugged off-roader with those chunky tires, extreme suspension upgrades, and the open-air configuration that enthusiasts love.
If you want an off-road-capable SUV that will also impress the neighbors, the Defender V8 wins this war. But with its less polished demeanor and tough underpinnings, the Rubicon 392 takes it. That's a bit of a cop-out, though.
While we wouldn't hesitate to park either of these in our garage, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 seems clearer in its mission to be the most hardcore off-road SUV. Combined with its sky-high cool factor, this makes it our choice.